Monday, March 12, 2012

Leadership lessons learned from James T. Kirk

Recently, Alex Knapp wrote a brilliant article entitled "Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk" in Forbes.  For those of us who have watched every episode and can recite every line of dialog from memory, these 5 lessons are a great distillation of the series.

On April 29, I'm speaking at the American College of Physician Executives about Leading Innovation.   These same 5 points are a great framework for that event.

1. Never Stop Learning

30 years ago I befriended one of the great thinkers from the vacuum tube era.  I showed him the miracle of a modern integrated circuit - one of his most complex tube designs fit into a dime sized chip.   He told me that he was not interested because he could not comprehend the silicon-based technology.

As I've told my staff, if I ever become an impediment to innovation because I'm stuck in a technology era of the past, it's time for me to move on.

2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews

I try very hard not be dogmatic.   I use open source and proprietary software.  I use Macs and Windows devices.   I run Java and .NET applications.    Surrounding yourself with with smart people (smarter than yourself), who may have contrary opinions, improves your own decision making .   I've always felt that "B" leaders surround themselves with "C" employees who simply reinforce status quo leadership thinking.   "A" leaders surround themselves with "A" employees who constantly challenge the status quo.

3. Be Part Of The Away Team

It's truly hard for healthcare CIOs to understand the needs of their customers.  It helps to be a clinician or partner with a CMIO.   The best way to truly understand the strengths and weaknesses of your IT organization is to use the applications you purchase or create, "Eating your own dog food".  This requires leaving the comfort of your office and spending your day in the field.   I spend less than an hour a day sitting at my desk - my office is wherever my laptop and iPhone reside.

4. Play Poker, Not Chess

It's important to take educated risks.   I bet on the web for healthcare in 1996.   Transforming organizations with healthcare information exchange in support evolving accountable care organizations, patient centered medical homes, and global payment is the right thing to do.

5. Blow up the Enterprise

Every organization has peaks and valleys.    Goliaths fall and Davids rise.   In my own career, I've experienced the perfect storm of innovation that results in revolutionary rather than evolutionary change.   Sometimes its clear that an organization should exit certain businesses, downsize and divest to ready itself for the next phase of growth.  Being the best "buggy whip" manufacturer is not a sustainable strategy.

Thanks Alex for a great article.   In the early days of Meaningful Use work a graphic appeared labeling Dr. David Blumenthal as Kirk, Dr. John Glaser as Spock and me as Bones (thanks to Brian Ahier for this).  It's an honor to be considered part of that crew!


Len Bowes said...

Live long and prosper!

Unknown said...

So, Bones, what is your favorite, "Dammit, Jim,..." quote? ;)

Ahier said...

"Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not a miracle worker" is one of my favorites...